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Have you ever stopped to wonder why you fear what you do? Some people are scared of leaving their houses (agoraphobia), some fear spiders (arachnophobia), and some people can’t stand germs (germophobia). But why do people fear these things? What about bigger fears? Like fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of rejection, fear of making a mistake? What do you fear? But more importantly, why do you fear it?
Ruth Soukup’s newest book, titled Do It Scared: Finding the Courage to Face Your Fears, Overcome Adversity, and Create a Life You Love, came out earlier this year (2019).
Check out my book review! I go more in depth on the book in that review, but I wanted to touch on a fact that Ruth discovered during her research for this book: everyone experiences fear differently.
We all experience a unique combination of the seven fear archetypes: Procrastinator, Rule Follower, People Pleaser, Outcast, Self-Doubter, Excuse Maker, and Pessimist. They’re nuanced in their own ways but relatively self-explanatory.
What Am I Afraid Of?
My top three fear archetypes are People Pleaser, Procrastinator, and Rule Follower. This is how they rank:
I didn’t really know what to expect when taking this assessment, but its accuracy surprised me.
When I stop and think, many of my decisions are driven by what others will think of me. I show up early to meetings because I don’t want anyone to think I don’t respect their time. I feel anxiety deep in my stomach when I think about letting someone I respect and admire down, such as my husband, close friends, and my manager.
But what else do I fear?
- Losing my health insurance (type 1 diabetes is hella expensive)
- Alienating my friends and family with any level of success I may achieve
- Ruining relationships with my ambition
- Financial insecurity
- Becoming pregnant—even more so because I’m childfree
- Dying young because of poor health
- Getting injured or dying while participating in a sport I love, like skiing or rock climbing
What Do You Fear?
Have you ever taken the time to just sit with this question? Let it stew in your brain for a bit without judgment. What feelings arise inside? Do you feel anxious or worried when you think about it? Do your palms get sweaty or does your heart beat really fast?
What we fear says a lot about us.
I might fear what certain people will think of my decisions, but I’m not afraid of an honest, productive conversation during performance review time. This might be surprising: I actually quite enjoy talking to my manager about my goals and whether I think I’ve achieved them—and getting his feedback is equally important for my growth.
I might be a procrastinator (A.K.A. a perfectionist) because I’m scared of something not being perfect, but I’m getting much better at “shipping” instead of sitting on things. Forcing myself to write two articles a week guarantees that nothing I write is 100% perfect, but it’s out there and helping people. I hope.
I might be a rule follower in that I feel uncomfortable with breaking the rules, but I think for myself and almost never follow the trends of what others think or do if I don’t agree with it. As an Upholder on the Four Tendencies, I’m the polar opposite of “Rebel.”
What do your fears say about you?
Why Do You Fear It?
Many things we fear, we fear because we don’t have enough information.
Spiders give me the heebie-jeebies (if it moves, it dies) because I’m not familiar enough with the different species to identify if it’s venomous or not. I’d rather kill them all than try to identify it and risk a brown recluse bite.
But what if I knew more about spiders? I’d be able to recognize when one is harmless and maybe give it a friendly escort outside—so it’s able to do its spiderly duties and not end up Luna’s plaything. (Luna’s our cat.)
Many, many people are afraid of speaking up at work when something isn’t going well or they feel uncomfortable with their workload. They’ve been conditioned not to say “no” to people in authority and end up burning out. They’re afraid of rocking the boat and maybe ending up without a job.
But what if you had a good relationship with your superiors? What if you were confident in your abilities to find a new job (or create one for yourself) if a conversation went sideways with your employer? Wouldn’t that cut down on your levels of fear?
How It Interacts with the People Pleaser Archetype
I noticed that I wanted to keep the peace and never told my boss at my first job that I didn’t feel connected to the work. It didn’t excite me. Now, I’m honest enough with myself that I look back and consider that work “boring.” And that’s part of why losing that job was one of the best things that happened, even though it felt like the end of the world.
Where I am now, the relationship I have with my manager is amazing. I feel comfortable bringing concerns to him and am equally comfortable telling him if I don’t think something is working. I’ve also learned so much at my job that, while I have zero plans to leave, I know it would not be the end of the world if I had to.
Tim Ferriss, who wrote The 4-Hour Workweek, does something he calls “fear setting.” About once a quarter he gets out a piece of paper and draws three columns on it.
In column one he lists his biggest fears.
In column two he writes the worst outcome if that fear were to become a reality.
And in column three, he works through either what he would have to do to mitigate the possibility of that happening or how he would respond to the fear coming to fruition.
This exercise helped him realize that it would cost him more (in terms of money, experience, mental health, etc.) to not go on a lengthy trip to Europe when he had fears of his business collapsing without him there to run it.
Ferriss gave a fantastic TED talk on Fear Setting:
Define Your Fears
I suggest sitting with these questions for about 30 minutes with a journal and just write what’s on your mind:
- What do you fear?
- Why do you fear it?
- What would happen if the fear came true?
- What could you do now, before it happens, to lessen its impact if it does?
- If it happened, what would you do to fix it?
- Is it worth remaining afraid when you consider everything all together?
I’d love to hear your comments on fear down below.